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Dad, watch your tie…

By Vernon Khelawan vkmoose@gmail.com

In decades past and more recently during the Covid pandemic, the population seems to have become immune to bad news – murders; robberies; home invasions; rapes and other sexual offences and not letting up, all kinds of fraud.

Writing about it becomes monotonous. So, on this Fathers’ Day, writing about something hilarious, or just plain, everyday occurrences might belatedly bring a flicker of a smile to your faces.

Recently while rummaging through some very old files, I came upon an article I had written more than 50 years ago in another newspaper dealing with, at that time, a most important part of a man’s daily wardrobe— the simple necktie.

Looking back, they came in all widths, lengths, and of course, a variety of colours. Would it have attracted my attention today? I doubt it. Dressing habits today have changed a great deal. Now, except for certain higher-ups, dressing to go to work has certainly been revolutionised.

“It was an ordinary weekday. I was in Port of Spain on my way to work when it hit me like a sledgehammer. I was sure it was the most frightening tie ever. With an almost unbelievable range of colours and symbols – reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and purples crowding and merging into triangles and circles like a geometric nightmare.

“The wearer, sporting a weather-beaten grey flannel suit, strode boldly across busy Frederick Street only to disappear into the crowded store. If I never saw him again it would be too soon. Whew! This was two mornings ago [sic]. But two hundred years later, I will still be remembering that tie.

“I looked down at the tie I was wearing – a simple, red- slightly more than an inch wide, with a black feather in the middle and a studded tie clasp holding it on to my shirt three quarters ways down. I wondered. The tie I had the terrible misfortune of seeing was about six times the width of mine and more offensive than a water colour painting done by a mischievous six-year-old.

“In this modern day [at that time] of the ‘continental’, I had felt that such ties were ghosts of the past, buried deep down in the last drawers. Let’s look at it. Neckties no longer define superiority of rank. They have become ordinary in the sense that everyone’s wearing them.

“How’s your necktie technique? Do you spend a good part of your morning selecting a suitable tie for the day? One which will bring out the best in your personality and of course, blend with the rest of your clothes? Or do you snatch the first tie on your rack regardless of shape, colour or condition? Whether your tie carries no special mark of distinction in status or not, it is still the one outward sign by which strangers can sum up at a glance your standard of good taste.

“If therefore, you wish to make a good impression. Watch your tie.

What is the ‘right’ tie? This is hard to define. But your tie is right if it blends with your shirt or your coat if you are wearing one. Your tie should meet the eye pleasantly rather than aggressively. It can be bright for it is your only splash of colour. It should be distinctive yet subdued; quiet yet attractive. There is no one quality to the ‘right’ tie.

“And the ‘wrong’ tie! It can be found in every community, but naturally in varying degrees of ‘wrongness’. The screaming, riotous colours usually appear in very ‘wrong’ ties.

Infinitely worse however, are the ties that we know well: the pale, washed-out, discoloured, wilting, crumpled ties that peep disconsolately at the world from dreary collar points and drooping outdated coats. Or those that hang limply at the front of soiled shirts.

As for bowties. They have died a natural death. Frankly, the right bowtie is a phenomenon. But one thing is certain. Most people look silly in them.”

Have a great Father’s Day, dads.

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